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Drivers Still Stranded In Icy Mess On I-95 In Virginia; Trucker Offers Stranded Strangers A Microwaved Hot Breakfast While Stuck On Icy I-95; Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) Discusses Anniversary Of Jan. 6th Insurrection & Passing Build Back Better Act; Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) Discussing Being Stuck On Icy I-95. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired January 04, 2022 - 14:30   ET




ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: As we speak, Victor, drivers are still stuck in that icy traffic mess along Interstate 95 in Virginia.

Some of them have been trapped since yesterday afternoon. That's 24 hours of gridlock after this snowstorm turned the interstate between Richmond and Washington, D.C., into a skating rink.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Yes, in one of those cars trapped overnight, Senator Tim Kaine, of Virginia.

He tweeted this: "I started any normal two-hour drive to D.C. at 1:00 p.m. yesterday. And 19 hours later, I'm still not near the capitol."


CNN senior Washington correspondent, Joe Johns, is out there in that mess.

Joe, what do you see? And how long do they expect this is going to go on?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: You know, they don't really know how long it's going to take, Victor, but I can tell you, you're right, it's a huge mess, and they still have a big problem on their hands.


I'm in Dumfries, Virginia, which is part of the district of Maryland and Virginia area. But they got a lot more snow than, say, Washington, D.C., that's just up the road to the north.

Take a look down here on Interstate 95 south. It's still closed down, as it has been for hours and hours. All the overpasses have a lot of traffic.

But if you look in the distance, you can see some of the vehicles that are stuck out there. And that's the big problem. The authorities say some of these vehicles are disabled. Some have run

out of fuel. There were accidents down there.

And they have to separate the vehicles that can still move from the ones that cannot and tow the ones that cannot off of Interstate 95 before they can reopen it.

Meanwhile, back up here on the overpass, you can see the massive traffic jam that's been going on just for hours and hours. They're starting to move a little bit more.

But when we first got here, I talked to a trucker who told me he'd been out here on this road since last night. And that's just the beginning of it.

Probably the worst story I heard from anybody was from a paramedic who said he was out here on the road and he had a patient in the back who needed to get to the hospital.

Stuck on the road for eight hours until he was able to flag down a police officer who put the patient in the car and drove the patient to the hospital.

I also talked to a trucker who actually put her truck on the side of the road, walked up here to a cluster of restaurants and convenience stores just down the road, to try to get some food.

The stores were closed because the electricity had been shut down due to the storm.

Listen to her.


THERESA SYKES, STRANDED TRUCK DRIVER: I walked up here to get food because we done ran out of food, you know, and everything you need is microwavable and I don't have a microwave.

JOHNS: And 7-Eleven is closed?

SYKES: Yes, 7-Eleven is closed. There's no fuel. My heart goes out to the young lady got her 2-year-old baby. She has no food.

You know, how could they have not -- my people from St. Louis called me and told me what was about to happen. How is it that they didn't realize what was about to happen?


JOHNS: So, how did Virginia authorities get themselves into this situation?

Well, everybody knows that before you have a big snowstorm, they'll go around and treat the roads with salt and chemicals to make it easier for people to get around. They weren't able to do that this time, they say, because it started

out as rain. And when it's rain, all the chemicals just wash away. After that, we got snow, and then it froze overnight.

Back to you.

BLACKWELL: Oh, a mess. I can't imagine being out there for 24 hours with kids in the car, nothing you can do about it.

Joe Johns, there for us in Dumfries, thank you.

CAMEROTA: Listen to this. Trucker Jean-Carl Gachet was stuck in that mess for hours when he decided to do something for other drivers, as you'll see here. They were stranded, and he made them a hot breakfast.

And Jean-Carlo Gachet joins me now.

Jean-Carlo, that is so nice of you.

And before we get to your act of kindness, can you just set the scene for us. How long were you stuck in your truck?

JEAN-CARLO GACHET, TRUCK DRIVER STRANDED ON I-95 FOR EIGHT HOURS: Yes. First of all, thank you for having me.

I stopped in traffic around 1:00 a.m., and traffic kept moving to the nearest exit around 9:30 a.m.

CAMEROTA: OK, so, you were stuck for eight and a half hours.

And just describe this scene. Were people getting out of their cars? Were people running out of gas? Were people falling asleep, talking to each other? Did you know what was happening?

GACHET: Yes, so, I actually pull up every traffic back-up on the waze app and the first thing I saw was accident up ahead about 15 miles. So I was like, all right, no biggie, an hour back-up at the most.

But it was just snow and black ice underneath. So that's what made it significantly worse. And after a couple hours, you saw people getting out to stretch.

Around the four-hour mark, I saw two people walking in the open ramp where they can easily get ran over, just really dangerous, just abandoning their car because that was two people out of many more that ran out of gas during that hold-up.

CAMEROTA: OK, so, at what point did you decide to make a hot breakfast for the drivers around you?

GACHET: So, it was 8:00 a.m. This driver stood up maybe because he was the only car to my front and the right of my truck. He was there at that same exact spot while I was there as well in the truck since 1:00 a.m.

So I knew I had some breakfast in the back, microwave. I made him a cup of water with fruit punch and decided to get it on tape, and you know, that was great.


CAMEROTA: What did you make him?

GACHET: It was a Jimmy Dean bacon, egg, and cheese breakfast bowl.

CAMEROTA: How happy was he to get that breakfast bowl?

GACHET: He was shocked when I -- when he opened the door at first.

And you know, I was saying, hey, I just made you a hot breakfast and a cup of fruit punch. I saw you were sitting out here the whole time, as long as me, I was here since 1:00 a.m.

So it was him and his mother, and both of them were really appreciative. It was a really nice moment.

CAMEROTA: That's so great that you were able to do that.

How much food did you have in your truck? How long could you have survived in your truck?

GACHET: So, it's funny, because I headed out of Richmond, Virginia, with just north of where I live. I headed out with about three days' worth of food. And that was my second day supply. So I'll be back home by tomorrow or the day after.

CAMEROTA: And you're still on the road right now? I see you're in dale city, Virginia. You're moving now?

GACHET: No, I'm still stuck. So I got off on the first exit with most of the other guys that were stuck around me, and we've been stuck since I-95 is still shut down to this point.

CAMEROTA: So, you have no idea when you -- your destination was, what, Georgia?


CAMEROTA: And when will you get there?

GACHET: The load's due tomorrow morning. I can possibly still get there depending on when the -- when the highway opens back up. But might have to be delayed.

CAMEROTA: Last question. Is there anything -- I mean, you're a trucker. You do this for a living. You say you've never seen anything like this.

Is there anything that highway patrol or anyone could have done differently to avoid this?

GACHET: Yes, I think there could have been more presence. I have another video where I saw the first emergency vehicles pulling up around 7:30 a.m. That was the first emergency service vehicles I saw since 1:00 a.m.

when I was sitting there, including a plow, a snowplow.

CAMEROTA: Well, Jean-Carlo Gachet, thank you for taking the time. And I'm sure that other driver really appreciated the hot breakfast.

And good luck getting to your destination.

GACHET: Thank you for having me.

BLACKWELL: Well, the country now preparing to mark the anniversary of the deadly U.S. capitol attack. And listen, we should never be desensitized to the images that we saw that day.

And look at these pictures. The officers who struggled to protect the capitol from the violent mob of Trump supporters, the mental trauma and physical injuries they suffered that day, they are still with them.

Moments ago, one capitol police officer, who still cannot raise his left arm because of the injuries he suffered in the attack, talked about the difficult year since.


SGT. AQUILINO GONELL, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE OFFICER: This whole past year has been very difficult. Challenging. Emotional, basically.

I've been overwhelmed in the amount of physical therapy that I had recently. It was painful therapy. Painful health sessions.

Trying to help me cope with some of these moments that I endure. They still traumatize me and others.


BLACKWELL: Congressman Ro Khanna is a Democratic representative from California, who is with us now.

Congressman, it's good to have you back with us.

It's been almost a year since the insurrection, six months of the January 6th committee's investigation.

Do you believe that the country is any better -- a better position than it was a year ago when we saw that insurrection there at the capitol?

REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): Yes, I do. First of all, because of the extraordinary service of the capitol police. I'm taking this week to thank individual officers for their service.

There's far more protection and security of the capitol, an attack like that, I don't think would be nearly as possible now so the security is tighter. Second, the committee has done a great job in investigating. It's been

bipartisan, with Bennie Thompson and Liz Cheney. We are getting answers of exactly what happened and how to prevent it.

BLACKWELL: Even as we get some answers, we learn about text messages that were sent. We learn about people who were organizing and fundraising from some of the leadership of the committee.

There are still some who, regardless of even audits of elections or recounts, still believe the president's -- former president's lie.

Donie O'Sullivan spoke with one of the former president's supporters.


UNIDENTIFIED TRUMP SUPPORTER: It was the Democrats were behind it all. They're the ones that caused it all.


DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Do you really believe that?

UNIDENTIFIED TRUMP SUPPORTER: I know it. And there's no way that a Republican would act that way. And there's no way that Trump had anything to do with what happened on January 6th.

O'SULLIVAN: What about all the Trump supporters that have been charged and indicted?

UNIDENTIFIED TRUMP SUPPORTER: Because it's all Democratic judges, and people that were on the take from the Democrats.


BLACKWELL: Congressman, listen, we're in an election year now. And we know that some of the members across the aisle are going to go back to these communities and try to win re-election.

And there may be some members, to their right, who are soaking this up and trying to sell it back to them.

How do you break this fever of what you heard from that woman and a lot of fellow supporters of the former president?

KHANNA: Well, I'm saddened by what I heard because a functioning democracy depends upon an informed and educated citizenry. That was Thomas Jefferson.

And social media, I think, is one of the culprits. I represent Silicon Valley. We need to do much better in terms of regulations on misinformation and disinformation.

And then all of us serving need to look at the oath we take and say, we can disagree about ideology, but don't mislead the American public. Don't lie. Let's have some basic respect. I never questioned, in 2016, when President Trump was elected. I don't

think it's too much to ask that people recognize that President Biden is now the leader of our country.

BLACKWELL: Let me ask you about legislation.

We know that over in the Senate, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is going to introduce some legislation to try to carve out some exception to the filibuster to get some movement on voting rights protections.

And here's what Senator Joe Manchin, who's opposed to any changes to the filibuster without Republican buy-in, this is what he said a few moments ago.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): Let me just say that to being open to a rules change that would create a nuclear option. It's a very, very difficult -- it's a heavy lift.

And the reason I say it's a heavy lift is that once you change a rule or you have a carveout -- I've always said this -- any time there's a carveout, you eat the whole turkey. There's nothing left.

Because it comes back and forth. So you want things that will be sustainable.


BLACKWELL: Sustainable. By that, he means a Republican buy-in. He's been clear about this for months now.

Is there anything substantive thing you think that could get Republicans buy-in at all? Because that's really what Senator Manchin wants.

That you could get through, that would protect the right to vote that we see disintegrating across several states because of this new legislation? Anything that can happen?

KHANNA: Unfortunately, not with a Republican buy-in. They haven't been willing to vote for the John Lewis Act. It's Republican state legislatures that are disenfranchising black voters or young voters.

And here's what I would say. McConnell used an exception to the filibuster to get Supreme Court justices on, so he's already said there ought to be a carve-out.

Why can't we have a carve-out to the filibuster to protect the sacred right to vote? Why is it controversial in this country that every person, regardless of their race, should vote?

I just don't understand why we can't have a vote on rights to protect every person's right to vote.

And we ought to keep pushing for it, mobilizing for it. This ought to be our top priority.

BLACKWELL: Senator Manchin has been clear about his opposition to that. Senator Sinema as well.

One more on Senator Manchin, who was also asked about moving forward on Build Back Better Act.

He says there have been no conversations with the White House since in December when he said that he was opposed to moving forward. He's a "no" on that.

He said there are some elements of the bill he can get behind, specifically on the climate elements.

If you can't get paid family leave, if you can't get the child tax credit expansion extended, are you willing to find those, like, individual elements that the Senator is behind that should go through?

That you and the House -- the progressive caucus can get together and get passed?

KHANNA: I'm willing to compromise.

I have had good conversations with Senator Manchin. I believe he's open to getting to a compromise and getting something done.

We need to engage him in good faith. We need to have a dialogue with him in the White House. And we need to see, what can we agree on to deliver for the American public?

So I understand it's not going to be what we passed in the House. We're going to have to compromise. And I'm open to doing that.

BLACKWELL: All right, Congressman Ro Khanna, thank you.

KHANNA: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Ahead, COVID and the classroom. President Biden said kids can and should be in school right now. But some teachers don't agree. So we'll hear from a parent and the president of the Chicago teachers union next.


And here's a look at what else we're following today.



CAMEROTA: So many drivers got stuck in traffic hell on I-95 outside of D.C. Because of a dangerous snow and ice storm.

One of those drivers was Senator Tim Kaine, of Virginia, who tweeted about it. This was at 8:27 a.m.

He said he had been in traffic for 19 hours and was still nowhere near Washington and the capitol.

He joins us live now.

Senator Kaine, thank you very much for joining us on the phone.

Where are you right now?

SEN. TIM KAINE (D-VA) (via telephone): Alisyn, I'm now 27 hours into my journey. I'm just going through Quantico, in Prince William, Virginia, where all Marine officers train.

And I still have probably at least an hour and a half until I get to the capitol.

I left Richmond yesterday at 1:00. I live in Richmond. I was trying to get up to D.C. for a voting rights meeting. I'm working on voting rights issues. And the meeting was at 8:00 and I wanted to do it in person.

It's turned into what will end up being a 27- or 28-hour ordeal, unlike anything I have ever seen.

CAMEROTA: Oh, epic. Just an epic odyssey that you're on.

You have been in your car for 27 hours. How are you not losing your mind?

KAINE: Well, I'm taking advantage of talking to a lot of people on the phone.

The voting rights meeting I was trying to get to, we switched to conference call. I had a lot of other meetings today, switched by conference call.

And as soon as friends and family and my Senate colleagues heard that I was stuck with thousands out on the interstate, they called to cheer me up, too.

We have been just moving at a snail's pace. And there have been at least a couple of times where traffic on the interstate, black ice, when the snow was slushy, and remelted last night, it was very icy.

Entire traffic was stopped for five or six hours at a time. And so, you know, we would get out and visit with folks in the cars nearby.

I'm driving myself, but other cars are packed with kids or senior citizens, folks coming back from vacations.

There was some nice camaraderie, even during a very miserable, and extremely cold evening.

One family with a Connecticut license plate was driving back with their kids from Florida from a vacation obviously.

And they got out their bag of oranges, which was the souvenir, and started to hand out oranges to all the drivers near them, which I thought was really sweet.


CAMEROTA: And, Senator, I mean, have you eaten or slept other than an orange?

KAINE: I had one orange, and that's the only food I've had since Sunday night.

And I slept when - basically, when it was clear that nothing was happening.

You know, you're trying not to run out of gas. If you run out of gas, you're really sunk. So I would turn the heater on full blast for about 10 minutes.

And then I would turn the engine off and lean back in my chair and sleep for, you know, 20 or 30 minutes, before it got so cold that I woke up again. That is how I was sleeping.

The temperatures were down around 11 or 12 degrees last night. And thank goodness, I had a good coat. And I also had a pretty full tank of gas when I started.

A number of people either slid their cars off the road in the ice or they ran out of gas because we were stuck between interstate off exchanges. Everybody was just gridlocked.

And you couldn't get gas. And so, somebody runs out of gas, it's really horrible for them.

But then the cars in the middle of the very narrow ice-choked lane of traffic and it also means everybody else now has an obstacle to work around.


KAINE: So I was hoping to make the capitol by a 4:30 meeting but we'll see if I do.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh, Senator.

And once somebody ran out of gas, where did they go?

KAINE: Well, what was happening is, when people run out of gas, the Virginia Department of Transportation has an emergency line for anybody who's still out there who needs help, 1-800-for-roads. And you can get help.

They were calling for help. Emergency vehicles were coming down the south-bound lane. People were walking across to the northbound lane to try to help folks.

There were tow vehicles that were coming. But again, you've got so much snow and ice on the interstate. And then it's all filled with cars just like mine that are just at a dead stop. [14:59:56]

It was really hard to get emergency vehicles in to tow disabled vehicles out. And that's what made the -- that's what made this so challenging.

You know, I didn't find the roads that challenging to drive on.